Men’s basketball ends season with 56-75 loss

Allison Mueller

Adam Kirk / Winonan

The Winona State University men’s basketball team suffered a 56-75 loss to Northern State University in the first round of the NSIC tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 22. The defeat marked the end of the season for the Warriors as they finished 11-16, their worst record since the 2002-03 season.

The Warriors shot below 20 percent from the 3-point line, converting on 5 of their 26 attempts. The team shot 39 percent overall.

Head coach Todd Eisner said, “Wednesday’s game was similar to most of our season. Offen-sively, we struggled to score near the rim on post-ups due to a lack of strength and athleticism and we didn’t have anyone that could beat the defense with the dribble to get to the rim to score or create easy shots for teammates.”

Senior Riley Bambenek led Winona State with 18 points. Sophomore Connor Flack and senior Isaiah Gray added 12 points each. Flack and Bambenek combined for all 11 of the Warriors’ free throws in the game.

“We ended up shooting a lot of contested jump shots and obviously struggled to make enough,” Eisner said.

Winona State struggled defending Northern State’s big-man Logan Doyle. Doyle scored 22 points on 9-10 field goals while collecting six rebounds.

As a team, the Northern State Wolves shot 56 percent and outrebounded the Warriors 39-25.

The Warriors held an advantage in creating turnovers as they came away with 11 steals.

Throughout the season, Winona State dealt with a lot of unexpected situations including nagging injuries to key players.

“We all dealt with a lot of adversity, in terms of my health and various injuries and illnesses that set our team back,” Eisner said. “We didn’t handle the adversity very well.”

Next season coach Eisner expects his team to be tougher and more competitive.

“We took a major step backwards on the defensive end of the floor and didn’t play with the togetherness or toughness needed to be difficult to play against,” Eisner said. “That was very disappointing and unacceptable moving forward.”

This May, the Warriors will lose three of their top four scorers come next season: Bambenek, Gray, Kyle Bauman, and Josh Mongan who provided one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the conference and only missed eight free throws in his college career.

Bambenek finished his career as Winona State’s 13th leading scorer in school history.

Eisner said, “I don’t have any specific expectations for next year at this time, until we know what players we will add in the spring recruiting period to have a better idea what our roster will look like.”

Key players returning next season include Flack, sophomore Tommy Gathje, junior Cory Jeffs and sophomore Charlie Koontz. Koontz began the season as a starter, but missed the majority of the season due to a hip injury.

“I was pleased with Tommy’s development but every returning player needs to be much better in every aspect of the game next year,” Eisner said. “I need to do a better job of demanding that we are going to play the game based on effort, toughness and enthusiasm and accept nothing less.”

By Adam Kirk